Today is Thank Your Mentor Day! Without mentors, this world would have ceased to exist a long time ago. Indeed, mentoring gives you the chance to live your life over and over again, well into eternity. And to honor those who shaped my world in ways I never could have done alone, I salute you and share three ways you can pay it forward so someone else can have a tremendous life!
Feel My Pain: Life is too short to make every mistake there is to make. This is where a mentor can save you years of anguish and unspeakable pain. We like to think that to be a mentor we have to constantly be dispensing all kinds of crazy wisdom and dazzling brilliance. But did you know that one of the best ways you can mentor others is by sharing your mistakes? There is something inherently redemptive about bearing witness to your own pain in an effort to lessen the pain of others. Thank you Cumberland Valley School District for showing me numerous classroom films that vividly displayed the effects of drinking and driving, chewing my food too quickly, contracting STDs and other horrors of becoming sexually active, and frying your brain on drugs. You saved me from some of life’s biggest mistakes!
The Door of Opportunity: Many of us feel that mentors are supposed to be these unbelievably well-connected individuals who, with one call or nod of the head, can make the impossible happen. While it’s really great if you have such a person among your contacts, being a mentor is as simple as providing developmental opportunities for your mentee and taking an interest in developing them. In other words, by making a simple recommendation or submitting someone for an award, you create a favorable circumstance for them. Case in point: in 1984 I was a cadet at New Mexico Military Institute preparing to graduate. I was uncertain what I should do next academically when my Air Liaison Officer, Major John Schaeffer, nominated me for admission to the US Air Force Academy. I didn’t realize this was going on behind the scenes until he handed me my acceptance letter. The fact that he took the time and effort to put my name in the hat for such an incredible opportunity is still one of the most defining moments of my life.
A Few Good Words: All great mentors are able to get right to the point with the fewest of words. Too often we erroneously assume that we have to invest years and countless interactions before we can make a difference in someone’s life. This is just not true. A few words said at just the right time may be all someone needs to launch them into orbit. When my father was on his last breath, he squeezed my hand and told me he knew I would take his business to levels he never could. That was the sum total of our succession planning and the only thing I needed to propel me forward. Even years later, I still feel the squeeze of his hand and the whisper of his voice as I put my nose to the grindstone and go about the challenges of running a business.
So go out there and do for others what somebody did for you! Share some insights, submit an award, make a phone call, or utter a word of encouragement. You never know what these small, yet incredibly impactful, events might make on someone’s life. I know what a difference it made in mine, and I will continue to live the Golden Rule of Mentoring until my last breath and then spend an eternity watching the legacy unfold.