Last week I visited a friend and my mentor. He was 98 years old on Sept. 11.
I met this person nearly 30 years ago. I was just a little past 30 years old myself; doing the math he was in his upper 60’s. I have often wondered to myself why would a wise and renowned man near the end of his career spend time with a young person at the beginning of his career? Guess that question answers itself in that he did. Sometimes there doesn’t have to be an explanation.
As the years pass I have been thinking about how do you define “mentor” and how do you find/choose a mentor. Of course, a mentor is not something you just set out to do one day. A mentor is a special person that accepts a person as a raw material that is capable of transformation. You cannot choose a mentor. A mentor allows you.
Mentor is a term used loosely in life and in the workplace. I often heard leaders at work and in the community proclaim, “We must develop mentors to pair up with our young people.” Sadly, those are nothing more than “tour guides.”
A mentor is willing to share knowledge but much more important a mentor shares learning and how to learn in life.
For me a mentor is not someone that necessarily has to be walking your path. A mentor knows how to see and understand your path. It isn’t about having someone to talk too. A mentor that accepts you as a person that understands how you learn and what you need and when you need it.
It’s easy for anyone to provide opinions and answers. A real mentor shares wisdom.
Why is it I don’t see what a wise man sees? A real mentor has the ability to help you open your eyes and mind. We all know how two people can pass the same spot and see different things. My mentor sees beyond the obvious.
A mentor doesn’t point out the things unseen. A mentor teaches you to see the things unseen. Teaches you how to learn. A skill much more valuable than any answer that can be spoken.
My personal dilemma is how do you express appreciation to a man that has spent 30 years teaching me?
The only way I know how to answer that question is to live my life with the lessons learned from a wise man.