Mitra Shahri Q&A
YOU’VE OBVIOUSLY EXPERIENCED A GREAT DEAL OF SUCCESS IN YOUR LIFE. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS YOUR GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT, AND WHY?
Changing the way law is practiced. I’ve made it more relaxed, less formal. I speak in plain language and my clients understand what I’m talking about. They accept my counsel and have more trust in me and the law. Also, I make them smile and even laugh as often as I can. They’re going through an oftentimes brutal process and I try to relieve their stress. I can be infectious that way.
LIKE EVERYONE ELSE, LIFE IS NOT ALWAYS SMOOTH. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT A SETBACK OR TRAGEDY YOU’VE ENCOUNTERED, HOW YOU DEALT WITH IT, AND THE IMPACT IT HAS HAD ON YOU?
At Wichita State University, I enrolled in a medical technology program. The head of the program, Linda, I’ll never forget her, told me the following: “I’ve never had a foreigner succeed in my program. You don’t even speak English and you’re stealing a seat from another student. You’ll never make it, unless you cheat.”
I felt so hurt – instead of teaching me and supporting my learning, she was treating me like a thief. She watched me during testing like I was a criminal. At the end of the course, when I earned the top grade in the class, this professor asked me to join her in a private room for a talk. I thought she was going to apologize and congratulate me. Instead, here’s what she said:
“I know you cheated, I just don’t know how you did it.”
She never changed. The whole year I was looked at with accusations, even when I proved I was her best student. It was so uncalled for, it still stings.
In the years since, WSU has reached out to me for a donation, as they do with all alumni. I told the school – NEVER – and I told them why. They apologized to me in a letter and said that Linda was no longer associated with the school. I said, well that’s different, as far as the donation – NEVER EVER – it’s much too late. What that professor did to a young student who needed her support and understanding was heinous and unforgivable.
DO YOU SET ASIDE “ME-TIME” IN YOUR CALENDAR, AND WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME TO RELAX?
I was just married recently, at 50. I held out all these years until the right man came along. He finally did and we are inseparable. He makes me laugh. Can you imagine? I’m supposed to be the funny one. I guess I make him laugh too. Life doesn’t get any better than when we’re just hanging out and laughing. I also listen to audibles – lots of books – mainly in the self-discovery and personal growth areas. It helps keep me pumped up.
WHAT’S THE MOST MAGICAL PLACE YOU’VE DISCOVERED WHERE YOU CAN GO TO CHILL OUT?
I don’t have to leave my home. I simply close my eyes and I’m in Paris. I used to dream that I’m walking the streets of Paris with the man I love, sitting in street side cafes, eating crusty bread and delicious cheese and drinking a glass of Burgundy wine. We are laughing and kissing and lingering the whole afternoon and evening watching the world pass by.
And in my dream, the man is treating me, instead of my footing the entire bill like I usually have for most of the losers I’ve dated.
Several years ago, I finally made it to Paris with a doctor I was dating. It was the closest I came to my dream, but he wasn’t the right man. We were there for only a few precious days and he wanted to stay in the hotel. I wanted to walk the entire city, see and feel and taste and breathe it all in. I was so close, I wanted to live my dream. So, I did – all by myself.
In one of the cafes, I met a very handsome man, I call him my ‘Sony dude.’ We spent an entire evening talking and laughing and eating crusty bread and delicious cheese and drinking Burgundy. Yes, and walking the streets and kissing. I got back to the hotel at 4 a.m., just in time to pack and make it to the airport for the return flight with the loser I’d traveled with.
I never saw the Sony dude again, or my loser boyfriend. But six weeks after I returned home, I met my future husband. I guess I was in Paris getting prepared for the real thing. I created magic there after all, and finally met someone who was fit, fun, independent and successful in his own right. Someone I love and admire deeply.
DOES PHILANTHROPY PLAY A ROLE IN YOUR LIFE, TO WHAT EXTENT AND HOW?
Yes, a big role. I’ve officially adopted two families. They are both Hispanic, and the men, the fathers, were being abused by big contractors they were working for. I helped them get their licenses and start businesses of their own. Both families are in a much better place and it will only get better from here.
Beyond that, I do a lot of mentoring, helping the disenfranchised get a fair shot in the economy. I give keynote speeches to groups, trying to motivate and inspire them to not be crushed by life’s circumstances – to keep going no matter what obstacles they face. I implore them to consider obstacles as stepping stones to their next big opportunity.
WHO IS ON THE GUEST LIST FOR YOUR IDEAL DINNER PARTY, PRESENT OR PASSED?
Bruce Lee (actor and martial arts king), Sun Tzu (Chinese military strategist and author of The Art of War), and Oprah. And my husband, of course.
CAN YOU OFFER ANY WORDS OF WISDOM TO OUR READERS AND YOUR FELLOW THROOMERS?
Yes, three things:
- All the adversities in your life are not obstacles. You need to embrace them – they are not barriers, they are the way.
- Your value is not what people see – your status – all your material things. Your value is what you feel inside about yourself. I am where I am in life by choice. I have everything I want – nothing more. In fact, I want less. What a luxury it is to feel that way. No more striving. My burning desire is to teach people not to make the same mistakes I have made. They should stop worrying about what other people think – or having this or that fancy thing – I wasted 20 years worried about such things. Save your money – don’t buy stuff – be happy with less. That’s one of the main secrets to a happy life.
- Don’t limit your challenges. Instead, challenge your limits. There is so much power in you. Don’t ever limit yourself.
As for me, I am a late-bloomer. My journey has just begun. I’m not sure what’s coming next, but it’s going to be magnificent. I can feel it. When I first came to America, I couldn’t read, write or speak English. In a million years, who would ever think I’d be a lawyer? I’m living proof that your future is limitless.