Today I wound up watching a video by Simon Sinek titled “The Secret Everyone Should Know” which brought me back closer into my own drive in life. 

Simon Sinek came at it with his usual gems, but this time it struck a chord with me on the development in my own life.

He points out that there is always that one teacher who you can remember. That one teacher who took you under your wing and helped you realize you were capable of more than you thought you were. And are the person you are today in some part because of that person… 

Who was that person for you? 

For me, I have to thank my high school Japanese teacher Mr. Fendt…

People often ask me why I went to Japan so many times. I’ve been back and forth over the past 15 years taking different roles in teaching, study abroad and learning how to bridge the gap between the US and Japan. In this process, I’ve more or less forgotten the core reason my interest tripled and impacted my life. 

I started my first semesters of Japanese in high school failing miserably. And by miserably, I mean supremely terribly failing. A 20% here, a 5% there. We had drills of the written language hiragana to focus on, and I never bothered really trying to study or ask anyone for help. I was completely lost, didn’t care and got two Fs.

After that second F, he pulled me aside and asked me if I really wanted to learn the language. And then said I could do amazing things if I put some more effort into it. But I had to either go all in, or just quit the class altogether.

I felt an insane drive to prove it to myself to study. I wound up learning all hiragana and katakana, months ahead of my class. 

He kept inspiring me to do more. 

Later he gave me two essays to write, one for teaching English at a summer camp and the other to have a host family. Having strong interest in writing, I filled out both of those prompts expressing what the experience would mean to me to be a part of, and of how I was impacted and wanted to give back. I wound up receiving both programs. I chose to do the host family experience first and kept the relationship going with the camp to do that the next year.

I was inspired by him to push myself in order to become a better person, and then in part to give back any way I could. I wound up wanting to be that person that could help others understand their own strengths, and support them. Still something I strive to become better at every day.

From there, I took roles being a teacher, a mix of being a communications strategist and a designer focused on the visual details. With love for the community, internationalization, people + culture, and a continual fire to master Japanese and provide anything I can for the situations I find myself in / people I surround myself with…

At 30, I will continue to become stronger to be the best person I can be day to day in this short (but long) unpredictable life.

Thank you, Mr. Fendt.