I have presented many interviews on The Invisible Mentor blog, but it’s the first time that I have featured someone who is very knowledgeable about self-mentoring. In the second part of the interview, Dr. Marsha Carr will define self-mentoring. I first published this interview in November 2013, but I thought I’d republish because it’s so important to mentor yourself. This is critical in learning the 10 key skills needed for future jobs.
Part One: Introduction
Avil Beckford: In a couple of sentences, tell me a little bit about yourself.
Marsha Carr: I have about 35 years of experience in private and public education, most of that time was spent either as a classroom teacher, reading specialist, and then toward the latter part, about 50 percent was actually spent in administration. My last decade of services was as a public school superintendent.
I was the first female superintendent in that school district and also the youngest superintendent they had had as well. At that point I retired, and decided that I wanted to look at something else, so I chose to go into higher education, with the idea of being a faculty member at a university and using the experiences that I had from private and public education.
In addition, I had run several different businesses, so in my mind, it was a nice merger to be able to shift into higher education and use those experiences to help others. And again it was another opportunity to serve. I took a year off and sent out applications and chose the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. It is a coastal community, a small university, that’s growing tremendously – exponentially and I had never lived at a beach, or near water so it was very exciting to live in a community that is a beach town. So you have tourists coming in and students come here because of the beach.
I have a business doctorate in organizational management. I chose to go that route some time ago after I had completed a Bachelor of Arts, and then I had two Master’s degrees, one is in administration and the other is in reading. I decided that I didn’t want to take any other educational courses, and I wanted something that would really challenge me so I went the business route, and as a leader, it was perfect for me as a superintendent. I continue to use that as a resource for my instruction and all of my endeavors.
University right now is a passion and focus, it guides everything that I do, and that’s actually how I met you, in an area called self-mentoring.
Avil Beckford: What’s a typical day like for you?
Marsha Carr: Up at 6:00 am and begin organizing my day from my home office by writing in a journal, looking over my calendar and checking to see what goals I have for the week. I grab a light breakfast – and get ready for a great day. I always have a great day – this is never an option. I end each day with exercise.
Avil Beckford: How do you motivate yourself and stay motivated?
Marsha Carr: Attitude…I always see every morning as a great day…I will it to be a great day no matter what the circumstances. I believe the mind is powerful and responsive to our suggestions.
Avil Beckford: If you had to start over from scratch, knowing what you now know, what would you do differently?
Marsha Carr: I would probably do nothing different. I have not necessarily planned my life – I have somewhat allowed it to find me by just being true to who I am and what I believe is important. I realize if I started again from scratch, it might not repeat itself but then it may be very similar.
Avil Beckford: Tell me about your big break and who gave you.
Marsha Carr: I had been fortunate to have several big breaks in my life … the first of several significant breaks was in 1984 when the valley where I lived and owned a business was destroyed by severe flooding. A 60-foot wall of water descended on my business and home. I started over. It is amazing what you learn when you get to start again. A 1994 significant break was when I was named a National Milken Educator and joined the prestigious family of Milken educators. Another significant break was shifting from public education administration to higher education. As compatible as the two educational careers should align – they are equally different requiring a high shift in learning opportunity.
Part Two: Career
Avil Beckford: How did mentors influence your life?
Marsha Carr: I have been influenced by individuals who have entered my life when I needed them from time-to-time, but I have predominantly self-mentored™ most of my life – I observed, asked questions, and then sought out the resources to reach my goal or meet my expectations.
Avil Beckford: What’s one core message you received from your mentors?
Marsha Carr: Be True to Yourself. There is no better message for a leader. You must be prepared to abandon your job for the sake of doing what is right. Few leaders have met this challenge – they bend to maintain positions.
Avil Beckford: An invisible mentor is a unique leader you can learn from by observing them from a distance. In that capacity, what is one piece of advice that you would give to others?
Marsha Carr: I think there are many individuals that I watch from a distance. I am not sure there is any one person that contains all the qualities I admire so I find myself looking at a variety of leaders and pulling unique qualities from each. From this act, I too am becoming a unique leader – not a model of others but a collaborative and collective leader.
Avil Beckford: What kind of leader are you? What’s your leadership philosophy?
Marsha Carr: I am the type of leader that believes in the power of others. I strive to build leaders through empowerment, encouragement, and shared strength. I believe that in each person there is a leader. I love this phrase, “The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.” Might have been Harvey Firestone that said that, I am not sure, but it is perfect.
My philosophy is that by sharing in the responsibility to build leaders, our country prospers.
Avil Beckford: What big steps did you take to succeed in your field? What is one step or action you have consistently taken that has contributed the most to your success?
Marsha Carr: Honesty is the guiding light when you are in any field. Once you are recognized as an honest and ethical person, you automatically climb the ladder in the eyes of others as someone that can be respected. With honestly is courage and pride. It wraps around you like a warm coat and guides you in all times of challenge.
Part Three: Life
Avil Beckford: Describe one of your biggest failures. What lessons did you learn, and how did it contribute to a greater success?
Marsha Carr: I have not experienced failure. I have experienced the greatest growth from decisions that could have been viewed as unfavorable at the time in which I now view as my greatest successes. I think it is a matter of how you look at your life and your work. You can see it laden with things to do over or you can chose to see it as the path that was built for you and by you.
Avil Beckford: What’s one of the toughest decisions you’ve had to make and how did it impact your life?
Marsha Carr: For me, walking away from leadership positions that I loved in order to broaden my experiences, or start a new adventure are hard – they are sad when you have to leave great people, but I know that I will meet more great people if I just continue to walk. This has allowed me to have a rich and meaningful life with friends in many places that I continue to maintain endearing relationships.
Avil Beckford: What are three events that helped to shape your life?
- The courage and tenacity I observed in my parents who were not fortunate to have the same opportunity I had in life;
- A mother who often told me to seek and hold my own independence before I shared it with another; and
- To obtain my doctorate in organizational management.
Avil Beckford: What’s an accomplishment that you are proudest of?
Marsha Carr: My marriage – I met my husband as a complete stranger and proposed to him 25 days later. We were married in 28 days from our first meeting. That was almost 30 years ago…I am very proud of our relationship and how it has grown over the years!
Avil Beckford: What are five life lessons that you have learned so far?
- Be honest to others but don’t be disappointed if they are not
- Have courage to face adversity
- Have several close friends that keep you humble
- Follow my heart when in doubt
- Never take no for an answer if I really believe in something
Avil Beckford: If trusted friends could introduce you to five people (living or dead) that you’ve always wanted to meet, who would you choose? And what would you say to them?
Marsha Carr: My friends would choose:
- Michelangelo or Leonardo Da Vinci: I would ask Michelangelo or Da Vinci how they were able to channel such incredible vision and passion into their artistic representations.
- Abraham Lincoln: I would ask Lincoln what he felt was his strength as a leader to see if it matched what we now commonly believe to be his primary attribute as a leader.
- Martin Luther King, Jr.: I would ask Martin Luther King, Jr. how he was able to inspire others that were so full of anger to be peacemakers in their efforts.
- Socrates: I would ask Socrates what he determined to be the greatest difference in leadership from his time and today – has it really changed or not?
- Ernest Hemmingway: I would ask Ernest Hemmingway what he felt when he manipulated words into stories and mastered such creativity.
Avil Beckford: Which one book had a profound impact on your life? What was it about this book that impacted you so deeply?
Marsha Carr: There are so many books that have touched me at different times in my life. I think the most current book that I have recommended to others is Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive through the Dangers of Leading by Ronald A. Heifetz and Martin Linsky.
It is a great book on the perils and dangers inherent in any leadership position that we so often avoid in our conversations like a forbidden fruit. There is some unspoken rule in leadership that if we discuss anything that could be perceived as negative, then we are not focusing on the positive of leadership. I think great leaders keep their eyes open and know what perils may exist to maintain positive in their efforts.
Avil Beckford: You are one of the 10 finalists on the reality show, So, How Would You Spend Your Time? Each finalist is placed on different deserted islands for two years. You have a basic hut on the island and all the tools for survival; you just have to be imaginative and inventive when using them. You are allowed to take five books and whatever else you take has to fit in one suitcase and a travel on case. What 5 books would you take with you and how would you spend the time? At this stage in the game there really aren’t any losers among the 10 finalists, since each are guaranteed at least $2 million.
Marsha Carr: I would spend my time on the deserted island if I had the essentials…water, shelter, food…by writing. I would pack my fountain pen and ink as well as paper supplies and empty journals. I would not want to be without paper and writing supplies.
I would also bring my camera…I would use my camera (with back up cards for storage) to document my adventure with photos and to supplement my writing. The entire experience would be chronicled and shared in detail upon my return. And I would probably bring a video recorder with back up battery packs to be able to add some video when necessary.
The five books I would bring would be:
The 33 Strategies of War
- Current bestselling nonfiction
- Current bestselling fiction
- The 33 Strategies of War by Robert Green
- Book on how to live on an island hopefully written by someone who actually did it
- Book on how to make paper while living on an island in case I ran out of journals. If I couldn’t write, I think I would cease to exist.
Avil Beckford: When you have some down time, how do you spend it?
Marsha Carr: Reading/writing and photographing the world.
Avil Beckford: Complete the following, I am happy when…..
Marsha Carr: I get to travel and experience a new country through taking photographs and immersion in the culture, whether it is meeting locals, visiting sites, or eating the native foods.