Mentoring is the process of pouring your life into the life of another person. Mentoring involves a true commitment to care enough about the life of another person to help them reach their hopes, dreams, and aspirations. A good mentor shares wisdom learned from successes and failures. A true mentor listens well, shares advice when necessary or prompted, and leads by example. Sometimes, just being in the presence of your mentor can provide you with the energy and enthusiasm to accomplish your goals, persevere through trials, and conquer your fears. It is not always what a mentor says but the intensity with which he or she listens that can provide the answers.
I remember the last year that I spent with my grandfather provided me with a wealth of inspiration and insight. At this point in his life, he was trying to persevere through cancer, and his faculties were not as sharp as they once had been. Just being in his presence, however, brought back the memories of every wise word he had said, every noble deed he had done, and every magnificent moment he had leveraged to listen to my hopes and dreams.
I thought about the times he took me to meet his friends for coffee. This regular ritual was a mentoring group before the word was popular. I was barely old enough to know what coffee was, but he took me along like I was “one of the boys.” His friends accepted this minor intrusion on their time out of respect for my grandfather. If he said it was ok, then it must be.
I also thought about all of the values that he instilled in me like a hard work ethic, integrity, serving others, humility, authenticity, and a love for God, your family, and other people. My grandfather did not speak a lot of words during his last year on this earth, but his life and the time I spent in his presence spoke volumes.
Who has been a mentor to you? Who are you mentoring? Mentoring is the kind of thing that must be paid forward. During the Thanksgiving holidays, I encourage and challenge you to do two things. First, reach out in some way to the people who have made an impact in your life – your family, friends, co-workers – and say thanks. You could even take the time to actually write a note or letter and mail it – something that is not done as much these days given the proliferation of e-mail. Second, set a goal of serving as a mentor to someone.
The funny thing about mentoring is that the mentor many times becomes the true learner.