I ran across an old message on Facebook from an older friend congratulating me for an achievement. He added, “I am proud to have been an early mentor.” And I was proud to include him on my mentor list.
We all have mentors who have taught and shaped us. Sometimes we are aware of the role they played, but other times it isn’t until we reflect on our lives that we realize who our mentors really were.
I’ve observed in my own life that there are three primary kinds of mentors who have influenced me most:
- Direct mentors. Theses are people who have agreed to help me in my journey. They’ve intentionally built into my life with wisdom and guidance. We both understood the purpose of the relationship.
- Indirect mentors. These are people I’ve known, observed and learn much from, but there was never a formal agreement about mentorship. Think of role models, heroes and achievers in your life as indirect mentors.
- Distance mentors. At the top of the list for me are authors and thinkers, some deceased, who have influenced me greatly through their work. I often say two of my mentors are deceased Brits, C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton. Chesterton was gone before I was born and Lewis passed when I was five years old.
Who is on your mentor list? And why should you have a list?
Learning sticks best when you organize and review the lessons. In this case, your mentor list reinforces who taught you those lessons. And the list gives you an opportunity to express appreciation and teach what you’ve learned to others.
Do these things:
- Identify your mentors and include all three categories.
- Reflect and record. What lessons did you learn, both directly and indirectly?
- Share those lessons with others. Who most wants or needs to be mentored by you? What is your highest contribution of expertise you could offer>
- Thank those who helped you. A handwritten note or a phone call will mean much.
The early mentor I mentioned earlier? We stayed in touch periodically. When I was last in Columbus, Ohio, where he lived, I spoke of him to a mutual friend. “Haven’t you heard? Pete got sick and passed suddenly.” It was sad but less so because I had acknowledged him and expressed my appreciation for all he did while he was alive. And I was reminded that a mentor’s impact lives on long after he or she is gone.
Mark Sanborn is an award winning speaker and Leadership Expert in Residence at High Point University, the Premier Life Skills University. For more information about his work, visit www.marksanborn.com. He also teaches professional speakers and leaders how to increase their messaging and public speaking effectiveness. Learn more here.