When Finding Oneself, Some Things Are Better Left Undiscovered

It was the promise of self-discovery that lured me in. When you're closing in on the big three-oh, and find yourself considering Zen cookery as a career, you know it's time for you and your psyche to do some sifting.

Which, basically, is what the Mentors Workshop is all about. This two-hour program, sponsored by the Southern Section, offers participants a chance to discover who they are, plus find out which values--and role models--motivate them toward success. Once they have that knowledge, they are better able to guide themselves toward their ultimate goals.

At least that's the scoop you'll get from Michael Radford, a professional motivational speaker from Mission Viejo. Radford brought the Mentors Workshop to Corona del Mar High Wednesday. It was the first stop on what he and Southern Section officials hope to be a 50-school tour.

Chris Thomas, section marketing director, says the section wanted to offer something positive for its member schools, in part to overcome the negative image garnered through eligibility rulings, court cases and the like. Thomas says each workshop costs $2,000--$1,500 goes to Radford--though the section is in the process of securing sponsors to underwrite the costs.

The workshop at times comes off like a Dale Carnegie course for kids--it's a bit slick, and two hours seems a bit long for teen-agers. But all in all, a worthy endeavor. Next stop, Oct. 20 at Costa Mesa High School.

The Mentors Workshop press release says the seminar "literally transforms participants through empowering self-discoveries." I wasn't looking for transformation Wednesday--well, unless it meant waking up the next morning looking like Cindy Crawford--but I accepted Radford's invitation to take a seat and check it out. One of his assistants handed me a work sheet and a pen. She promised it would be fun.

Radford opened the seminar by asking the students how many of them were lucky enough to get out of math class to attend the workshop. He told them he got a D- in an alegbra class once, and the only reason he didn't get an F was that his baseball coach begged the school principal for mercy. He didn't seem to be joking.

The students chuckled nervously. Corona del Mar Principal Tom Jacobson looked pale. No doubt he was wondering how Radford planned to introduce the workshop's chapter on integrity.

On to the work sheets.

The first exercise, Positive Role Models , asked participants to list famous personalities they admire--from sports, television, ancient history, etc.--then list the qualities they admire in each.

The result, the workshop literature says, "is a revelation as they discover the reason they chose a particular role model is because they themselves possess the same values."

Radford asked for volunteers. He was looking my way. Does a 29-year-old college graduate stand up and tell a gym-full of teen-agers that she has for years looked up to Mighty Mouse? I think not.

Fortunately, a guy named Rob came forth. He said he chose Michael Jordan because he is "righteous and rad," and Clint Eastwood because he's "tough and bad." Righteous, rad, tough, bad? If these are the values of our future generation, I'm outta here.

Next, What Motivates You? This, says the workshop literature, is where "very impacting and empowering discoveries are made." I braced myself.

We were to narrow a list of 20 traits--accomplishment, discipline, health, etc.--down to the five that matter most to us. One boy revealed to the audience that he chose "adventure," "artistic," "creativity," "friendship" and "fun." Radford asked him who his role model was. Yannick Noah, the boy said. Radford told the crowd that he wasn't sure, but he would almost bet Yannick Noah had similar motivations. Amazing.

Next, Greatest Perceived Mistakes. This exercise, the story goes, "allows the participant to release those events they wish had not occurred in their lives."

This was powerful stuff--and one heck of an opportunity.

That horrendous moment when I made a basket for the wrong team in the fifth-grade city championship? Gone.

The day I made my first boyfriend a batch of chocolate-covered Rice Krispies marshmallow treats that looked like cow pies? Erased.

The moment I tried to jump across a ravine that turned out--very much to my chagrin--to be filled with cacti? No more.

Finally, Test Your Integrity. This revealing little quiz is described as "a healthy, non-threatening exercise to make each student aware of areas in which to improve personal integrity."

"Cool," the boy behind me said. "It's like, 'Trash Yourself.' "

The quiz offers 10 statements such as "When someone tells me a secret, they know I can be trusted," or "If a cashier gives me too much money back, I always tell them." You're asked to rate yourself, on a scale of one to five, then add up the points to determine the category in which you rate: Excellent, Good or Poor.

I admit, it didn't do wonders for my self-esteem to discover my integrity wallowing in the "Poor" category. So I went back, changed a few answers and now feel much better about myself.

Self-discovery and all.

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