Me And My Mentor: Through The Highs And Lows


Sydney real estate property manager Bernie Mitchell was diagnosed as bipolar in 1998, but went on to set up a successful business. His mentor is his wife, Sam, and their story proves that business success thrives on love, trust and inspiration as much as facts and figures.

MENTEE: Bernie Mitchell
My heart stopped when I met Sam at a party when I was 17. She’s my best friend. We’re always joking around and we roll with the punches.

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1998. I’ve been able to function, but I’ve not always been able to see the future because of it. Sam’s always there to believe in me and I need that because I’ve been so ill. She holds our goals, reminds me of the things I want to achieve, and steers me there.

SEE ALSO: Me and my mentor: Confidence building

There were times with the depression that things were so bad I couldn’t even work full-time. But Sam was there for me and we still pursued our dreams. We’ve been together almost 21 years now.

Sam’s always looking out for my health, which is really important to help me manage my illness. If I’m pushing myself too hard, not getting enough exercise, or eating badly she’ll let me know.

I love the chaos with four kids and I look forward to going home each night. I don’t have the luxury of working crazy hours because of my illness and Sam reminds me of that. I learned my life lessons young, including time management, leaving work at the office and prioritising my family.

I love my work [managing rental properties] because it’s about people, trust and relationships. Sam’s a good judge of character so I go to her for second opinions on people, as I’m too trusting.

There have been tough times with the business and at one point I was ready to quit. Sam was there to remind me why I wanted to build my business and to make me ask myself if I really wanted to walk away from it when we’d always known it was going to be a long-term venture. She’s not the gentle persuader – she’s my reality check.

MENTOR: Samantha Mitchell
Bernie wasn’t ill with bipolar when we met. He’s always been determined to succeed, so I knew he’d get through it.

It was my job to keep him on track.

From day one with his bipolar, I said, “This is something you have to deal with. I’ll support you, but you have to take responsibility for it.” There’s been the odd occasion where I’ve had to put the brakes on him, but it’s important that he can look after himself.

I’m a sounding board for Bernie, even if I say things he doesn’t want to hear. Focus Property Management is his dream job, but about three to four years ago he was in a down spiral and he wanted to sell the business. But the reason he set it up was that he’d have a workplace where he could have time off if he really needed it because of his illness. I helped him see that and made him change his mind. He’s now got his passion back.

Bernie can be very trusting and I love that in him, but I can help him to look at things from a different perspective if necessary. There are so many promises made in business. If he trusts in something to happen and it doesn’t, that can affect his mood and his bipolar.

I’ve developed a more positive outlook to life since I’ve been with Bernie. The bipolar has helped us turn a bad situation around. He constantly looks on the bright side and I admire that in him.

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