In my younger days, I had always thought, or hoped, that somehow, somewhere, someone would take me under their “wing” and be my career mentor. I have been very fortunate in the people I have worked for and with, but the ideal mentor relationship just never happened.
This past week, I was thinking about mentors and realized many people in my life had served that role. Instead of having just one mentor, I actually had a montage of mentors. I sat down and just wrote the names of people who made a difference in my life. Some of them include:
- Rev. Lovaas, Rev. Brien, and Rev. Smith – all pastors in my hometown church. Each in their own way, they were always open to questions yet challenging in ways to strengthen my faith through action and study. Rev. Lovaas was there when I was a child and always had the patience and the time for me with my youthful questions. Rev. Brien had the fire and the mind which always made things thought-provoking and interesting. Rev. Smith encouraged my spirit to flourish and grow as a growing teenager. From them, I learned there is always time to listen, guide, and be there for a young person as they explore and grow their faith.
- Dave Z. – a janitor at my school. I worked with him during lunch hours, and he always had a good work ethic and a wry sense of humor. Although he was not perfect (and, no one is), he exemplified the importance of keeping both feet on the ground in whatever you do.
- Professor Thoreson – a great business professor who embraced the “iron fist in a velvet glove” approach to teaching. Dr. Thoreson created the right learning environment, but never let anyone take advantage of him. He was always fair, but tough in his approach. He is the single reason, I believe, that I was accepted into a top 20 MBA program, and he will always be the great example of being nice does not mean being soft.
- Rick K. – at the time, the youngest mayor in the country. He took my offer of free services in the form of an internship and extended it into one of the best part-time jobs a college student could have. He taught me the importance of vision and that all politics is really local.
- Sen. Abdnor – one of the last great honorable politicians. He always had the concern of his constituents at the forefront of everything he did. Unlike most politicians, if he never had to talk to the press and could only communicate directly with his constituents, he would have been very happy. Sen. Abdnor gave me an opportunity when I had no political connections. He is the single reason that I had a solid career in Washington, DC. He represented the importance of giving people an opportunity and establishing a sincere connection to people you serve.
- Bob S. – a business leader. After graduating from MBA school, he was the one who gave me the opportunity to leverage my new education and forge a new path away from politics and into the business world. Bob was always down-to-earth and had a biting, realistic, homespun approach to business. One of his favorite sayings from his career was “If I am so smart, why am I the one being wheeled out of here?” It was that time in his life which he transitioned from being tyrant to being a coach in the workplace, and I was fortunate to catch him after his heart-inducing transformation! Keep it simple, measure what is important, and respect people are all key attributes Bob taught through his actions.
My actual mentor montage is more extensive. As it expands, the montage would begin to include individuals who are present in my current work and extracurricular activities. Suffice to say, there is no need to include others right now… I know who they are.
The reality that struck me is life brings a montage of mentors to us to help us along the way. Although some may have that one special mentor in their life, all of us likely have many. The imagery of a montage of mentors really is a perfect one.
Along our way, we are given many opportunities to learn from people in our paths at different points in time. When I started to make my list, I felt incredibly blessed and emotionally thankful for all that they have done for me. I only hope that I can return the favor and be a part of someone else’s mentor montage.
Thought points: Who are your mentors? Make the list, and thank them. What can, or are, you doing to serve as a mentor to others? Are you open to sharing your life stories, your lessons learned, with others?