The Importance of a Mentor

I’ve admittedly been very fortunate to receive an excellent education. Sometimes I took advantage of the excellent opportunities to learn and sometimes I didn’t. I suppose I wasn’t that different than most students; I did better at subjects I liked and not as good at the ones I didn’t. 

My education made it possible for me to make a living. It didn’t really do much to help me make a life. 

Making a life required a whole different level of education. A level that can only come from a mentor. As fortunate as I was to have a formal education, I have been, throughout my life, blessed to have excellent mentors. 

Knowing what I know now, if my younger self had to choose between a formal education or a series of outstanding mentors I’d go with the mentors every time. That’s because working to make a living often doesn’t open a door to making a life. However, working to make a life often opens the door to earning a living. 

You can make resolutions forever and accomplish nothing. You can set squishy goals and mushy plans til the end of time and they will lead to nowhere land. Or…

You can get serious about building the life that was meant for you. The first step in that process is getting yourself a mentor. A good mentor. A mentor who cares about you. A mentor who cares so much that they will be honest with you. Even when it hurts. 

As you begin your search for  mentor here are a few things to keep in mind.

Your mentor should be enthusiastic about being a mentor. They should be passionate about helping others, namely you. The reward they seek should be in seeing you grow and become successful. Don’t attempt to drag someone into a mentoring role, if they aren’t all in from the beginning it’s likely they will never be all in for you. 

A good mentor should help lead you where you want and need to go. They should align with your needs, your desires and your talents. They should not push you to be a clone of themselves. They should be focused on helping you be the best version of yourself. 

A good mentor will push you out of your comfort zone. They know that “comfortable” is the enemy of growth. They will encourage you to try new things, to experiment and even to fail. 

Your mentor will need to know you, maybe even better than you know yourself. That means they will be an excellent listener. They will not allow themselves to be distracted when listening to you and they won’t be afraid of a little silence while they are considering what you’ve said. 

Good mentors provide great feedback. They “tell it like it is.” They may not always provide you with the feedback you were hoping for but that’s actually a sign of a mentor who cares. 

The best mentors I’ve had in my life seldom told me straight out I was wrong. They asked question after question to open my eyes so that I could see I was wrong without being told. Those were the “lessons” that really stuck with me. 

When you’re mentor “shopping” look for a person with those traits and abilities. When you find one ASK them about their willingness to mentor you. Ask if they would be willing to help you grow into the person you’re capable of becoming. 

You may be able to go it alone but you are FAR more likely to reach your full potential if you have a little help along the way.